A few weeks ago, I met a new person. I know, in the before-times, this wouldn’t even be newsworthy.  But in the days of the pandemic, meeting someone outside of your normal circles definitely is something to write home about. Anyway, I’ll leave some of the details hazy, but basically, I was outside at a fire pit in someone’s backyard. I starting chatting to someone who works in immigration for the government. Not immigration reform, like actual immigration. Of course, I had a million questions for this person. I was most likely overly enthusiastic with my questioning and a bit overbearing. Anyhoo, haven’t heard from that person since back in September (no surprise!). But, they did recommend a book to me that I’ve been reading a bit on & off. Excuse me, but it has a bit of an off color title. It’s called Everything is F*cked: A book about hope. I haven’t made it through the entire book, but so far the author lays out a theory about how our Thinking Brains and our Feeling Brains can work together. I was moved by this excerpt: “You[r thinking brain] may not have self-control, but you do have meaning control. This is your superpower. This is your gift. You get to control the meaning of your impulses and feelings. You get to decipher them however you see fit. You get to draw the map. And this is incredibly powerful, because it’s the meaning that we ascribe to our feelings that can often alter how the Feeling Brain reacts to them. And this is how you produce hope. This is how you produce a sense that the future can be fruitful and pleasant: by interpreting the sh*t the Feeling Brain slings at you in a profound and useful way. Instead of justifying and enslaving yourself to the impulses, challenge them and analyze them. Change their character and their shape.”

This business of meaning making is what the Soul Center (and, I would argue, all of Judaism) is in business for, so of course I dog-eared this page in the book. But also I found this deeply connected to the stories we are reading at this time of year in the Torah. Our ancestors were complex and complicated people, far from perfect. Their thinking brains and their feeling brains were in constant battle with each other.  We ascribe certain personality traits to our forefathers.  To Abraham we ascribe love & hospitality, to his son Isaac awe & trembling. I learned this week in The Spark with Rabbi Lisa Goldstein that their grandson and son Jacob is seen as the one who was able to fuse these two attributes together.

According to Jewish teaching, the synthesis of fear and love, both of which Jacob exemplified, is mercy. Jacob’s unique attribute of mercy, which combines love and acceptance with justice and strength, enabled him to outmaneuver Esau and Laban, gave him strength to grapple with and defeat an angel, and empowered him to raise a large family that his love and compassion carried during some very rough times. That family eventually formed the basis of the Jewish people. But I think it’s about more than mercy. Jacob could craft the experiences of his life and his family’s lives to create one that contained hope.

This hope and meaning-making, fusing all of the parts of you together is what it’s all about. Tonight I binge-watched the Netflix 6-episode series called Colin in Black & White. It is a series produced by Ava Duvernay and Colin Kaepernick about Colin Kaepernick’s early life, recounting his formative years navigating race, class and culture while aspiring for greatness. Ultimately, it’s told as a story about Mr. Kaepernick trusting himself and following his passion, despite many influences pushing him in different directions. At the end of the series, he says “to the underestimated, the overlooked and the outcasts, trust your power.” It’s really a story about hope and faith in yourself. I give it 5 stars.

Let’s try to build up a little faith in ourselves this week, shall we?

Soulfully yours,

Rachel

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